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Lion Links: 7/23/22

Orlando City to host Union, OCB U-19 call-ups, Javier Otero shines, and more.

MLS: US Open Cup-Philadelphia Union at Orlando City FC Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

It’s a big match day, Mane Landers. Orlando City hosts the Eastern Conference-leading Philadelphia Union tonight at 7:30 p.m. A win does not seem out of the realm of possibility, as the Lions currently trail by only nine points on the table. However, the squad is going to need to put together one of their best team efforts across the board to do so. The fun does not stop there, as the rubber match between the Young Lions and Philly II will be played tomorrow at 7 p.m. as well. Let’s hope the first team can set the tone tonight and OCB can wrap it all up tomorrow. Now, it’s time for the links!

Orlando City Hosts Philadelphia Union

Orlando City took a short break from MLS play by adding in a friendly match against Arsenal on Wednesday. The club will be at home again tonight — this time against MLS side Philadelphia for the first meeting between the teams in league play in 2022. The two teams met earlier in the year in the Round of 32 of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup on May 10, when Ercan Kara and Andrés Perea both found the back of the net.

Kara would love to score again against the Union and leads the Lions with eight goals in all competitions in 2022 — seven of which have come in league play. Facundo Torres follows closely behind with five and scored against Arsenal on Wednesday. The Lions will need to keep an eye on Dániel Gazdag, who leads the Union with nine goals this campaign, followed by Julián Carranza, with seven.

Young Lions Called Up

U-19 United States Men’s National Team Head Coach Marko Mitrović has called up 23 players for a training camp from July 25 to Aug. 2. Orlando City B will be offering up three of its players for the camp. Goalkeeper Dominic Pereira will be joining attackers Favian Loyola and Ethan Subachan on the plane to Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, CA. This will be Pereira’s first appearance with the U-19s.

The players called to Carson are also age-eligible for the U-20 side, which just qualified for the 2023 FIFA U-20 World Cup in Indonesia and the 2024 Olympics in Paris with its performance at the 2022 Concacaf U-20 Championship in Honduras. The players born in 2005 are also age-eligible for the 2024-2025 U-20 World Cup cycle. Hopefully, the Young Lions can prove themselves worthy in this camp as they work towards inking their names on the U-20 World Cup roster.

OCB Keeper One to Watch

If you have yet to see Javier Otero feature for Orlando City B, you might also recognize his name from a couple of recent short-term contracts with the first team. He was recently signed to fill in as backup goalkeeper due to Orlando’s usual second- and third-string keepers being out with injury. While he has yet to play in a match for the senior Lions, he has been making a name for himself across MLS NEXT Pro. He has recently been listed as one of five MLS NEXT Pro goalkeepers that MLS clubs should keep their eyes on.

Otero was named MLS NEXT Pro’s Goalkeeper of the Month for April. At only 19 years of age, Otero towers in goal as a man amongst boys at 6-foot-6. Across 12 matches this season, Otero has 70 saves while only conceding 24 goals. He boasts three clean sheets, a 74.5% save percentage, and 16 additional clearances.

Sebas Mendez Welcomed in LA

LAFC added Orlando City’s Sebas Mendez to the tem’s list of summer transfers Tuesday for $300,000 in guaranteed General Allocation Money, with another $450,000 in conditional GAM tied to the Ecuadorian international’s performance metrics with the Black & Gold.

Mendez has more than three years of MLS experience and more than 4,500 regular-season minutes with the Lions, He will be joining his countrymen, Jose Cifuentes and Diego Palacios, on the club level now as well. The three players will be chasing a Qatar 2022 World Cup spot with La Tri later this fall.

LAFC Head Coach Steve Cherundolo described his newest addition as a versatile midfielder who can play multiple spots.

“He is physically very gifted and covers a lot of ground and is quite aggressive. His ball-winning abilities is something that we’re also looking for in players, and he brings that. On top of that, he’s technically proficient and has an eye for certain windows. So he fits very nicely into an 8 position for us, and in a pinch, he can play in a 6 position.”

It has yet to be seen if Orlando City will replace Mendez this transfer window or wait until the end of the season. Mendez has already integrated into his new club and could play as soon as LAFC’s visit to Sporting Kansas City tonight at 8:30 p.m.

Luis Gil Joins Union Omaha

Former Orlando City midfielder Luis Gil has joined USL League One side Union Omaha. In 2017, Gil joined Orlando City from Querétaro of Liga MX on loan and featured in 17 matches for the Lions. Orlando City went on to swap midfielders with the Colorado Rapids in the final hours of the MLS summer transfer window, when the Rapids received Gil and $100,000 of Targeted Allocation Money and Orlando claimed Dillon Powers.

At the international level, Gil only earned two caps with the USMNT senior team. However, at the youth international level, Gil accumulated over 50 appearances and 12 goals, and played in the 2009 FIFA U-17 World Cup, the 2009 Concacaf U-17 Championship, the 2013 FIFA U-20 World Cup, and the 2013 Concacaf U-20 Championship.

“Luis adds great quality and experience to our team,” Union Omaha Head Coach Jay Mims said. “He has played at the highest level in our country including at every level with the USMNT. Adding an experienced, quality player like Luis will have such a great impact on our team on and off the field for the second half of the season. We are excited to welcome Luis to the club and I know the players are eager to have another hard-working, humble person in the locker room.”

Free Kicks

That’s all the links for today. You know what to do now. Pull on your purple jersey, start the pregame rituals, and head over to Exploria Stadium. Let’s get this weekend off to a great start. Vamos Orlando!